Who should be the next President of the European Commission? In the run-up to the 2019 European elections, we’ll be profiling the various Spitzenkandidaten (“lead candidates”) for the job. Next up is the candidate for the Party of European Socialists (PES), Frans Timmermans, First Vice-President of the European Commission.

Frans Timmermans was born on 6 May 1961, in Maastricht in the south of the Netherlands (making him Maastricht’s second-most-famous son, after the indomitable André Rieu). His grandfathers were both coal miners, but his father worked as a diplomat and, when he was 11, his family moved to Italy, where Timmermans attended an English-language school.

Timmermans graduated from universities in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, and Nancy, France, with degrees in French literature, European law, and history. An accomplished polyglot, Timmermans is reported to speak seven languages fluently: Limburgish, Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, and Russian. After a year conscripted into the Dutch army following graduation, he joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as a civil servant, with a particular focus on European integration.

He was first elected to the Dutch House of Representatives in 1998, for the Labour Party. He has been elected six times as a national MP and from 2007 to 2010 was Dutch Minister of European Affairs and, from 2012 to 2014, Minister for Foreign Affairs. In 2014, Timmermans joined the European Commission under Jean-Claude Juncker as First Vice President.

As First Vice President, Timmermans’ portfolio has meant working on some of the most contentious issues facing the Commission, including the migration crisis and rule of law dispute with Poland. He helped conclude the EU-Turkey refugee agreement, widely seen as having eased the migration crisis (though the deal has been criticised by human rights organisations).

Frans Timmermans has a reputation for being fiercely intelligent, competent, and a skilled orator. However, some argue the shine of “Timmermania” that greeted his appointment as First Vice President has worn off. In his defence, he was given the task of dealing with some of the most difficult issues facing the Commission. Yet, while critics generally agree he can deploy impressive rhetoric, some see him as adopting the “pomposity” of a lifelong civil servant and politician, and argue there’s no way reality can meet sky-high expectations.

PORTRAIT CREDITS: Timmermans (cc) – PES Communications

34 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar
    EU Reform- Proactive

    In the spirit of fairness- shouldn’t this question also change- “mid way through”- to:
    “Who is Frans Timmermans- as happened to Manfred Weber?

    Is it preferential treatment for a staunch and ambitious pan-European with attributes like “skilled orator”, “impressive rhetoric & “pomposity”? Just the right characteristics for an EU leader- or?

    He might probably be dreaming to be the next recipient of the Charlemagne Prize? OMG!


  2. avatar

    No .We want a citizens representative not an oligarchy s

    • avatar

      You are only good when paying taxes.

  3. avatar

    anything better than EPP conservatives.

  4. avatar

    When a “socialist” group votes FOR agreements containing ISDS variants from ICSID (like CETA), which give international corporations supreme rights over governments, you know something is “very fishy”.
    And that will be a NO to that PES member.

    • avatar

      It’s better than current EPP.

  5. avatar
    Shadow Hand

    What happens when the unstoppable force meets the immovable object?
    If he doesn’t know the answer then no.

  6. avatar
    Martin Jefflén

    Approaching the European elections, the European Union has a unique opportunity to show it takes citizens’ concerns to threats to the public interest seriously. Being First Vice President of the Commission and running as spitzenkandidat I expect Frans Timmermans to stand up for a strong whistleblower protection directive. This would be an important addition to a more social Europe. The directive proposal on the table now is flawed, and some remaining issues need to be urgently addressed in trilogue to not destroy a potentially good whistleblower protection.


  7. avatar

    No. He should quit politics altogether and leave us alone.

  8. avatar

    Pol Pot would be a better choice, they come from the same ideology.

  9. avatar
    Renée van Wirdum

    No. Timmermans is a very capable diplomat – not in the limelight please -, but in my view a bit outdated as politician. I wish for a EC president who dares entrust member states with the execution of EU-policies without detailed regulations and knows how to do that prudently. Neither do I like the way he tells me how I feel as a common European citizen.

  10. avatar

    Νot any action for EUs citizens.Obedient supporter of oligarchic EUs policies .NOT ANY RELATION WITH SOCIALISM

  11. avatar

    More of the same? – NO!
    It seems the Greens have the best candidates so far.

  12. avatar

    A member of the mafia of UE and supporting tax evasion for rich people and repression for workers, greeks and catalan citizens

  13. avatar

    We need PROGRESS in the EU …

  14. avatar

    A fading star…failed in his brief on rule of law issues in Poland Hungary etc…on getting concensus with migration…with Catalonia voting…blind sided by Selmayr & Barnier over Brexit…would be just another bureaucrat marching to the federalists tune whilst europe burns with populist anger.

  15. avatar

    yes, I will vote, but not in the same ones or in the bow of corruption, whether they are politicians or political parties, I will vote for new politicians, who propose a closed fight against corruption and severe judgments with retroactivity to every kind of corruption ….

  16. avatar

    I’m tired of older men in suits. They are usually up to no good. What are his credentials? Does he understand ecological systems? Does he care for those groups that do not have a voice in this male-dominated, wretched world, like kids, women, and future generations? Does he cycle to work or goes around in a big diesel car, like all others of his kind? Does he have vested interests in the oil, car or chemical industries? How seriously is he taking the climate change challenge, and is he willing to act strongly and fearlessly about it? Progress would require having the right answer to these questions, and many more..

  17. avatar
    bert van santen

    The man who claimed on live Dutch TV an statement about the MH17 passengers. Since then no one Dutch citizen believes him anymore

  18. avatar
    Paul Bosmans

    Can we read somewhere how Mr Timmermans sees his mission as President, what are his priorities for Europe and how he intends to address the concerns of a large number of Europeans, particularly in the face of the new attitude of the USA, Chinese imperialism and the military threat from Russia? What measures does it intend to propose in terms of transparency, good governance and control of operating costs to restore trust between the citizen and the EU?

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